Farmer nurseries as a catalyst for developing sustainable land use systems in southern Africa. Part B: Support systems, early impact and policy issues
Support to farmer nurseries is classified as either "hard" referring to material inputs (tree seed, water, inoculum, tools and fencing) or "soft" (information, training and backstopping advice). Against a background of poor services for smallholder farmers in southern Africa, it was hypothesized that a number of support agents operating at the grass root level together with farmers themselves provide the different support functions needed in farmer nurseries. A study was conducted to evaluate the role of support systems in farmer nurseries in Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania. Furthermore, the early tree planting impact of farmer nurseries was assessed in Malawi. Support for hard inputs came largely from single service providers, with significant and increasing contributions coming from farmers themselves. Soft inputs came from a larger diversity of providers with collaborative effort gaining importance. There is an urgent need to facilitate grassroot level support systems with larger participation from the private sector for tree seed and from the national extension services for provision of training and backstopping advice. It was noted that individual nurseries achieved larger transplanting impact, but this did not translate into higher impact at the landscape level, because group nurseries were the predominant type. Strengthening the human capital of farmers and service providers emerged as critical in increasing impact. Farmer nurseries are shown to play a number of important and interrelated functions in building natural, human and social capital. Monitoring and evaluating farmer nurseries in catalyzing these three functions should therefore receive proper attention in assessing the impact of sustainable land use systems. Policies need to be articulated to address some of the major constraints identified.